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  A neologism coined by the French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-84) in his book The history of sexuality, volume 1 (1978) to describe a new \'power over life\' which emerged in Europe between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Biopower consists of \'diverse techniques for achieving the subjugation of bodies and the control of populations\'. Foucault examined disciplinary — \'micro-physical\' — techniques that accustomed the body and mind to surveillance, self-regulation and the \'anatomical performances\' required by the factory system. He also discussed biological, economic and political — \'macro-physical\' — configurations of the \'species-body\' (the necessities, aptitudes and rhythms of populations), and state intervention in the fields of economic production and consumption, demography, public health and sexual behaviour. Foucault was especially interested in how moral-political questions about what it means \'to be a living species in a living world\' were turned into instrumental-scientific ones about physical and mental needs and capacities. Foucault\'s account of biopower should be considered in relation to his broader thesis that power produces individuals and places them within webs of subjugation and regulation, rather than cages or represses some \'real\' self that might be liberated from power (see genealogy; governmentality). Foucault worked in Europe and discussed biopower largely through the lexicons of sexuality and class, but commentators suggest that his arguments have a critical purchase in regard to questions of race and colonialism (see Stoler, 1995). (DC)

References Foucault, M. 1978: The history of sexuality, vol. 1: An introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Random House, 133-59 (Orig. pub. Fr. 1976, La volonté de savoir). Stoler, A. 1995: Race and the education of desire: Foucault\'s History of Sexuality and the colonial order of things. Durham and London: Duke University Press.



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